- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Senate Homeland Security Committee voted Tuesday to approve Kirstjen Nielsen as the next Homeland Security secretary, overcoming objections from Democrats who said she lacked leadership experience and didn’t appear to be independent enough from the White House.

Ms. Nielsen has been a top adviser to former Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly and followed him when he left the department to go to the White House — but her own management experience is more limited, leaving her with a steep learning curve should she win final confirmation from the full Senate.

She cleared the committee on an 11-4 vote.

“I think she’s qualified,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican chairman of the committee. “It’s a big job, we need to get her in that position.”

But Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, said Ms. Nielsen has never managed more than 15 people, and he said that left him worried she wouldn’t be able to handle a department with more than 200,000 employees, with responsibilities ranging from emergency relief to overseeing the Coast Guard and Secret Service to controlling the country’s three immigration services.

Mr. Carper, who was one of the four Democrats who voted against the pick, said he would try to meet again with Ms. Nielsen to see if she can assuage his concerns.

In her confirmation hearing last week Ms. Neilsen repeatedly said she didn’t have answers to questions about major policy decisions, saying instead that she would learn from senators once in the job.

Three other Democrats — Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Gary Peters of Michigan — also voted against Ms. Neilsen.

Ms. Harris said she was originally “encouraged” by Ms. Nielsen’s promises to listen to Democrats on Capitol Hill in shaping immigration policy, but the senator said the nominee was too equivocating on too many big subjects.

Ms. Harris said Ms. Nielsen even declined to state a position on whether humans are contributing to global warming.

For her part, Ms. Hassan said she was troubled by a report in The Washington Post last week that Mr. Kelly had called acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke to try to pressure her into a decision not to renew a temporary humanitarian protection for would-be illegal immigrants from Honduras. Ms. Duke ended up punting on the decision, saying she needed more information before deciding whether to extend Temporary Protected Status for tens of thousands of Hondurans.

Ms. Hassan said she wanted Ms. Nielsen to be called back to the committee to testify again under oath about her commitment to being independent of the Trump White House, where her current boss, Mr. Kelly, remains a powerful figure.

“Until we get complete answers from Ms. Nielsen on these developments, I will oppose her nomination,” the senator said.

Mr. Kelly’s shadow looms large over the post he left this summer.

Mr. Carper said he wants to hear from Mr. Kelly on why the former Marine general thinks his subordinate is ready for the job. Mr. Johnson countered that Mr. Kelly has already called Ms. Nielsen a “superstar.”

“It’s a very big job. Probably nobody’s qualified for it,” Mr. Johnson said.

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